A History of Pictures
by David Hockney and Martin Gayford
Thames & Hudson 360pp £30 David Hockney doesn’t see himself as an artist, said Michael Bird in The Daily Telegraph. “I’d prefer to say I’m making pictures,” he tells Martin Gayford in this fascinating volume based on conversations between the two. The book is a more or less chronological meander through the history of pictures – or, as the authors like to call them, “two-dimensional representations of three-dimensional things on any flat surface”. They begin 30,000 years ago with the cave paintings of Paleolithic artists, and end (“why not?”) with Hockney’s recent “photographic drawings”. In between, they discuss everything from 13th century Chinese ink-brush paintings, to film stills from Casablanca, and the similarities between the seascapes of Walt Disney’s Pinocchio and Hiroshige’s Naruto Whirlpool. Much of the material isn’t new – Hockney once again gives us his controversial thesis about the early use of camera obscura – but the authors’ enthusiasm is so refreshing the repetitions don’t matter.
Not only is Hockney a “great artist”, said A.N. Wilson in The Sunday Times: he’s also a “highly intelligent commentator on art”. A History of Pictures abounds with “spine-tingling” observations – the claim that “Caravaggio invented Hollywood lighting”, for example, or that we really “see in 4D – time being the fourth dimension”. One thing’s for sure: “I won’t read a more interesting book all year.” Hockney may be approaching 80, but he remains as youthful as ever, said Clive James in The Guardian. By sheer brilliance of perception, he has “put himself in a position where every major picture he knows about is a bottomless well of excitement”. And in this “magical flight of a book”, he has generously shared that excitement with others.
Hockney’s Self-Portrait with Blue Guitar